Written by Route Setter Sean Smith
Quality route setting has long been a priority at Climb Nashville. We have always considered it our “product” and thus place an emphasis on setting the highest quality routes for our members and guests. We were one of the first gyms around that had a full-time, salaried routesetter with benefits. Eleven years and several gyms later, we continue to strive for excellent routesetting at both of our locations, each of which have unique strategies.
Before we explain the setting strategies at each location, our general rule of thumb is to have fun routes that can be climbed by people of different heights and ability levels. One of the primary methods we use to achieve this goal is called progressive setting. The idea is to set routes that progress gradually in difficulty without creating any stopper moves or extremely difficult crux sequences. This makes routes more accessible to individuals of every skill level while also creating challenges for more experienced climbers. This method also allows climbers to project routes and over several sessions see a clear improvement in their climbing ability, rather than being shut down repeatedly be a single move. While progressive setting works well for route climbing, it’s only one strategy that is useful for setting boulder problems. Other methods are also very useful in boulder setting, for instance trying to set a specific move or certain style, for example technical climbing, slopers, crimps, etc.
At the West Gym on Charlotte, we have some of the best lead terrain in the country with tall walls ranging in steepness between 10, 20, 30, and 40 degrees. These walls as well as our many top rope walls range in overall height between 40 and 50 feet. Such tall, steep walls are very challenging to set on but rewarding to climb on! In addition, our many mezzanine top ropes range between 25-35 feet. Lastly, we have a long, clean boulder with a variety of angles. Each of these areas presents unique routesetting challenges and climbing possibilities. For example, the long, consistent overhang of the 40 degree lead wall makes for forearm-blazing endurance climbs, whereas our top rope slab wall allows for very technical, balance-focused movement. Meanwhile, hard boulder sequences are frequently set in our lead arch. As routesetters, we try to make the most that each wall area can offer us. Likewise, we have unique goals for each area in terms of route rotation and grade distribution. In general, we aim to reset the boulder and lead walls on a 5-6 week schedule, while the main floor top ropes and mezzanine top ropes are maintained on a 7-8 week and 10 week schedule, respectively. These schedules allow us to continually set new routes and present our members with fresh challenges on a daily basis.
Our East Nashville location on Eastland Avenue has some awesome bouldering terrain up to 16’ high including 80, 45 and 15 degree walls and a systems wall. There are some shorter kid friendly bouldering areas and 6 top-ropes. The top-ropes and the kids bouldering area have a 10 week rotation. The rest of the bouldering area has a faster rotation for taped problems but an old school hold density. The idea here is to continue to reset fresh boulder problems but try to keep the wall filled with holds to allow climbers to create their own problems for fun or training purposes. Our 45 and 80 degree walls allow for some very difficult climbs that advanced climbers can train hard on. The East Gym is a training tool and density and rotation have been chosen to allow people to have training sessions of their own design. The addition of the systems wall, Atomik Bombs, and a Moon Fingerboard and Trango Hangboard make this gym an ideal place for climbers dedicated to reaching the new level in their climbing ability.
That’s essentially a broad overview of our approach to routesetting at Climb Nashville and our goals for each gym and wall area that we have to offer. We do our best to have high quality routes ready for all of our guests, whether they are first time climbers, kids in a summer camp, experienced lead climbers, or strong boulderers.